COVID-19 does not choose who will infect, it does not discriminate, but the consequences – health, social and economic – are not the same for everyone. The possibilities for implementing preventive measures to protect against infection, maintaining hygiene, physical distance and self-isolation if needed, are not the same. Vulnerable and marginalized groups of citizens do not have equal opportunities to protect or meet basic food, medicine, hygiene and shelter needs.
From the very beginning, after the declaration of the state of emergency, the civil activists, the first and so far the only ones, went on the field in the Roma settlements on the territory of the whole country. They did not have time for their own fears of infection, and from the first day of the crisis, they are the first line of helpers in constant communication with the citizens. They assessed the needs for health care, monitored the realization of the regular services for social protection, every day they try to interpret the new, emergency measures, and to find ways how these measures will be realized in practice.
April is over, the second month of the state of emergency, and not only is there no response to additional preventive measures, but neither the already adopted preventive measures nor the regular system of social protection and implementation of social services are functioning. In the field, in the Centers for Social Work, the employees are inaccessible or absent from work, and somewhere they even rudely harass the people who address them for what belongs to them.
Requests, with very specific and precise measures that need to be implemented quickly to protect and assist vulnerable groups of citizens, have been sent to all competent institutions in RNM – to the Prime Minister, the Government, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, and to Mayors to both the Main and Local Crisis Coordination Headquarters.
They either did not respond or declared themselves incompetent, or in writing, “recited” what is written in the laws and regulations with legal force. Link to requests and responses from institutions: https://bit.ly/2yul1Ov
In the meantime, we see pictures and announcements from the Prime Minister and other government officials promoting food donations, hygiene, and protective equipment. Of course, any help and support are welcome, but we want to see what the state is doing, with what strategy (if any) to facilitate this period, but also how it plans to improve the further living of vulnerable groups of citizens. The adopted measures are not enough to deal with the health and social crisis, nor for the upcoming economic crisis, where measures for these groups of citizens are not provided at all.
Dear friends from the institutions, we invite you – instead of continuing the marginalization and deepening the structural differences, to use the crisis as an opportunity for change, an opportunity to create new normality in which you will create policies to overcome structural differences that are the cause of inequality and you will approach the considering measures for restructuring resources and their equitable distribution. To this end, civil society organizations active in this field have the capacity, knowledge and experience and at any time are ready to take an active part in jointly creating a new reality.
Association for Democratic Initiatives, Gostivar; Association for Democratic Development of Roma SONCE, Tetovo; HERA Health Education and Research Association; Voice Against Violence – National Network for Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence; EHO Educational-Humanitarian Organization, Štip; Association – Trust, Kumanovo; Association “Dostoinstven rabotnik”, Prilep; Association for Emancipation, Solidarity and Equality of Women – ESE; Association for the Protection of the Rights of the Child; Association for Local Development ACTION PLUS, Resen; Association for the Support of People Living with HIV – ZAEDNO POSILNI; Association for the Support of Marginalized Workers Star-Star; Roma Rights Association, Štip; Association for Legal Education and Transparency STANICA P.E.T., Prilep; Association for Development and Promotion of the Roma Community ROMANO CHACHIPE; Association for Rural Development Local Action Group Agro Leader, Krivogashtani; INKA Association, Struga; Association Multicultura; Citizens’ Association LJUBEZNOST; Roma Lawyers Association – Skopje; Association of Educators and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children Roma LIL; Association Roma Information Business Center of Macedonia – ZRIDCM; Forum Association – Center for Strategic Research and Documentation; HOPS Association – Options for Healthy Living Skopje; Association Center for Education and Training ACTIVE LIFE, Tetovo; ZLUKR Art Equilibrium, Gevgelija; CHOICE, Strumica; Roma Economic Development Initiative; Women’s Initiative from Šuto Orizari; Institute for Democracy Societas Civilis – Skopje; IRIZ – Community Development and Inclusion Initiative; Coalition for Sexual and Health Rights of Marginalized Communities MARGINS; Coalition All for Fair Trials; Concept plus; Macedonian Young Lawyers Association; Media Plus, Štip; Youth Alliance, Tetovo; Youth Cultural Center, Bitola; Network for Protection Against Discrimination; National Roma Centrum, Kumanovo; NGO KHAM, Delčevo; PROFICIO – multiethnic tolerance through economic prosperity; Reactor – Research in action; Rural Coalition, Kumanovo; RTZ Hayat NGO Strumica; Union of Rural Development Associations Network of Local Action Groups, Krivogaštani; Transparency International – Macedonia; IDEA Southeast Europe Foundation; Foundation Open Society – Macedonia; Foundation CEED Macedonia; Helsinki Committee for Human Rights; Humanitarian Charity Association SAINT MOTHER TERESA, Kumanovo; Center for Investigative Journalism SCOOP Macedonia; Center for Contemporary Arts.